The city of Houston had a rough couple of weeks, as the city continues to repair and heal from Harvey, the two FBS Universities in the square off in the renewal of the Bayou Bucket. Houston and Rice renew hostilities in a rivalry of schools less than ten miles apart. A few keys to Saturday night's contest:
Build off UTEP
The Owls went to UTEP, against a Miner team that strives to beat people up, and physically dominated their opponent. Hopefully, that win erased some of the memory from Rice's opener. The Owls are searching for an identity, on both sides of the ball, last week gives Rice something to build on.
Pressure off the edge
One position where Rice has real playmaking ability is off the defensive edge with outside linebacker/defensive end tandem Brian Womac and Graysen Schantz. Womac and Schantz are big, athletic, and physical and both are thriving in Brian Stewart's multiple odd-man front schemes. Womac is a difference maker in particular if either or both can pressure Houston quarterback Kyle Allen, Rice has a shot.
Run and Stop the Run
In their nightmares, Rice defenders see Stanford backs running free all over Australia. Last week the Owls redeemed themselves, albeit against UTEP. Rice must limit Houston's ability to run the football, which means limiting Dillon Burden and Duke Catalon. Conversely, on offense, the Owls must slow down the Houston pass rush by continuing to run the football efficiently. The Owls rushed for over 300 yards Saturday night, it will be difficult, but the Owls need to maintain that level of efficiency.
Keep your eye on the ball
Rice plays a unique offensive scheme with more motion, unbalanced line, jet sweeps, etc. than perhaps anyone in the country. The Owls will hand the ball or make you think they're handing the ball to just about anyone on the field, from receivers to running backs to tight ends. The idea is to cause the defense a moment's hesitation to allow blockers to get angles or slow the defense down. Houston is aggressive defensively and thrives on doing so, this week the Cougars need to maintain eye discipline to find the ball and limit big plays.
Get that out of your system
Houston quarterback Kyle Allen played a decent debut, though we're sure he's not pleased with the two picks he threw vs. Arizona. Allen, known for throwing the odd interception; his career numbers come out just about 2 TDs for every one pick, not terrible but not ideal. If Rice has a chance Saturday, it will come via Houston mistakes. Allen can't gift balls to the Owls.
Penalties as well
Globally as a team, the Cougars can't beat themselves with penalties and mental errors. Saturday night in Arizona, Houston gave the Wildcats a few outs by self-inflicted wounds. They'll need to clean that up starting Saturday.
Notes and Numbers
- Saturday's game will be the 41st meeting between the Owls and Cougars, Houston holds a 29-11 series advantage.
- The Cougars are riding a three game series winning streak over the Owls.
- In two games, eleven Owls have carried the ball for Rice, including five receivers.
- Rice held UTEP to their lowest rushing output since the 2010 season.
- Houston's fifteen game home winning streak is the longest in the FBS.
- Houston's Kyle Allen completed a career best 78% of his passes Saturday, among games where he's had 10 or more attempts.